Mary Cassatt: The Degas Friendship (VI)

16 Apr

My watercolor version of Mary Cassatt’s “The Cup of Tea”

Degas and Mary Cassatt had an interesting friendship.  He could be extremely condescending at times, particularly to women.

I read (book: “Cassatt” by Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1979) about a time when Degas and Cassatt were checking out a painting by a mutual friend. Cassatt told Degas she felt it had no style.  Degas laughed at her and shrugged his shoulders as if to imply that women know nothing of art or style, how could Cassatt even have an opinion on art!?

After that stinging gesture by Degas, she decided to teach Degas a lesson.  She found the ugliest model she could find – a vulgar looking servant, placed her in a pose wearing a shift next to a dressing table.  She had the model pose as if preparing to retire with a stupid expression.  Then she painted a beautifully harmonized painting with a strong composition.

When Degas saw the painting “Girl arranging her Hair” he exclaimed “What a drawing!  What style!” and promptly bought it for himself.  He kept it until his death in 1917.

Despite this story, Degas still would make remarks but did recognize Cassatt’s abilities and dedication to her art.

Have you ever held back stating your own opinion? Or experienced someone doubting your abilities?  Maybe you’ve doubted your own abilities and then surprised yourself?

“The Cup of Tea”


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